Friday, August 12, 2011

Looking at MLS Attendance

MLS is on the rise at the turnstyle, too...

2011 has been a banner year at gate across Major League Soccer. The league is averaging more than 17,300 fans per game in 2011. This is the first time since the league’s inagural season that average attendance has crested the 17k figure. Perhaps even more impressive, the median attendance in 2011 is at an all time high, easily surpassing the previous high (1996) of approximately 16,100. To put the averages in an American sports perspective, the MLS average has eclipsed both the NBA and NHL and lags only MLB and NFL among US based professional team sports. While its true that many MLS stadiums enjoy a capacity far in excess of their indoor cousins, soccer attendance is also limited by the reduced capacity in San Jose. Perhaps most impressively, the league is enjoying these fantastic numbers despite the presence of world soccer powers criscrossing the nation filling stadiums at a clip of more than 40k per game.

Not surprisingly, much of the credit for the fantastic attendance numbers rests in the trio of franchises in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle is averaging more than 37k per game, Vancouver just over 20k and Portland more than 18,600. Both Dallas and Colorado (the 2010 MLS Cup participants) have seen attendance increases well in excess of 10% while traditional attendance powers Los Angeles and New York (if tradition can be a one year run), have managed an increase in 2011. Kansas City’s attendance has increased in dramatic fashion (more than 70%), also a significant contributing factor. Most of the other teams (with two notable exceptions) have managed slight gains or limited drops suggesting a committed and vested base of fans.

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